Splash Into SOCO

Escaping Finals with a Weekend Filled with Music and Fun

Our school’s annual SOCO concert will be held May 5th and 6th and will continue the two day event format that was tested out last year. This year, Residence Life and the Interfraternity Council (IFC) have planned a small change to add to the event. SOCO Splash, a daytime event centered on waterslides, will be held on the fraternity row to help make all of the activities of the day more fluid.

“Previously, SOCO Splash, which was introduced last year, was on the Residence Quad,” Allen Doyle, the IFC president, said. “[We thought that] the attendance of both would go up if it was at the same location. We didn’t want to split up the crowd.”

By adding the location of fraternity row to the event, there is now the opportunity to have band parties with live music to help amp up the atmosphere. Residence Life and IFC hope to bring the two interests in music and outdoor water activities together to appeal to more students.

“I’m super into water, slides, music, friends, [and] food,” Doyle said. “It’s my five favorite things all in the same place.”

Photo via Avery Bottom

Photo via Avery Bottom

The concert itself is being put on by the Quest II director of concerts Clayton Crawford and assistant director Divya Desai. Beyond the responsibilities of logistics and budgeting, the well-known role of director is choosing the artists that will perform.

“I know a lot of people wonder why we get certain artists,” Crawford said. “It all depends on who is available, who fits our pretty-small-for-a-concert budget, and, probably worst of all, what administration will allow us to do.”

Even though this is a show for college-aged students, artists are still expected to do a clean show because they are being paid and sponsored by a Methodist-affiliated school. This, along with a modest budget, limits who can be brought to campus.

“We had an artist that I really wanted, and it seemed like a lot of people really wanted, but, when we floated [his] name past administration, there were reservations about some of the themes,” Crawford said. “The shows are supposed to be PG-13/radio friendly, and a lot of music that’s really popular with people at our school doesn’t fit that bill. That’s probably the hardest obstacle to overcome.”

This need to fit certain requirements already puts a strain on the possibility of musical acts that are allowed to come to campus. Beyond these limitations, the concert directors have to find artists that will please the majority of students. The new structure of making SOCO a two day event offers the ability to have two different groups to appease the musical tastes of those who prefer either DJ or live music.

“We are trying to book different genres and not just target one audience,” Desai said. “It’s really important to try to include everyone on campus.”

These two artists, along with the bands that will perform during SOCO Splash, will offer something for every student. While the artists themselves have not been released at this time, Quest II promises that they have been deliberate in choosing groups that will make this year’s event enjoyable to all.

“We’ve worked really hard,” Desai said. “It would be awesome if we could have a big turnout for SOCO.”

Feature photo via Trinity Kubassek

Residence Life Implements New Housing Selection System

Hopes to create a more fair and efficient system bring a new process into play

Last year the student body received an email from the Office of Residence Life, notifying them that the housing selection process had changed. Instead of a group’s highest lottery number determining when they would pick housing, it would then be the lowest. This occurred only a few days from selection, which caused backlash from students and made Residence Life realize that a change could not happen with such a short notice. However, students were assured that change would come the next year. That change is now here, but this time, Residence Life teamed up with SGA to improve the process.

“The Office of Residence Life is excited to move the Housing Selection process into the 21st  century by ending the tired and stressful process of conducting housing selection in one night in the Great Hall,” W. David Miller said. With a new housing portal acquired by Residence Life, students will be able to complete the process anywhere with an Internet connection. Only one member of the group will need to fill everything out, which will allow students with meetings or practices to stay on schedule.

Perhaps Miller’s largest change is how lottery numbers will be used. Instead of students selecting housing with the highest or lowest lottery number in their group, all group lottery numbers will now be averaged. Miller hopes that this will prevent large numbers of underclassmen from taking upperclassman housing while also giving groups with lower numbers a fair shot.

The new system was presented at an SGA Town Hall last semester, and it was met with favorable reviews. “During that forum, several students posed questions about the process, and Residence Life provided clarification and took that feedback into account to develop the new system,” Miller said. “The feedback from students at the forum was overwhelmingly positive.”

He hopes that this system will answer longstanding problems with housing selection while staying as fair as possible. “I know it won’t be perfect, and, for that, I apologize in advance,” Miller said. “All I ask is for students to give it a fair chance and recognize we have their best interest in mind and truly want to create a process that is equitable and less stressful than previous processes.”

The housing application will become available on March 1st. Room selection will occur April 3rd-14th.

Row Woes

The Pros and Cons of Common Source

Earlier this semester, the school’s administration introduced measures to punish fraternities for serving common source alcohol. Seeing as BSC is a wet campus, students are unsure of how these rules may affect the fraternity functions that have traditionally served alcohol for the past several years.

Kyle Lo Porto, Assistant Director of Student Activities, explains that "common source is when an organization provides alcohol to a guest at their event.” He went on to say that common source tends to appear often at open fraternity parties, where organizations feel they need some way to draw guests to their events.

While the school is able to give this clear-cut definition of common source, some students are confused by the change of rules. Since the administration has changed its stance on the subject, some students are hesitant to believe that the rules are as straightforward as they appear to be.

 "Common source has been redefined several times by our school, and the student handbook shows their lack of clarity, in a sense," an anonymous fraternity member says. "Birmingham-Southern College has started incorporating any distribution of alcohol, at all, even when the organization is not implicitly purchasing or distributing the alcohol. When one container of alcohol is handed to another person, that is affiliated with the organization, [and] that is [now defined as] common source."

Historically, the administration has always been opposed to common source alcohol, but punishments were varied due to a lack of precedent in the handbook. Greek conduct boards (made up of all 6 fraternity presidents, plus the Interfraternity Council [IFC] VP of Judiciary, IFC President, and Kyle Lo Porto) would hold hearings and hand out punishments as they saw fit. The new rule incorporates punishments for fraternities that serve common source, which includes losing three events and being put on probation for the remainder of the term and the next term for the first offense. If there is a probation violation, then there is a risk of the house being shutdown. It seems that one of the biggest changes for the fraternities is working with sororities to have them refuse common source and report it when they see it, a rule the presidents all agreed to adopt.

"It is a very tough situation since it is such a long history for certain events," Lo Porto says. "Everybody pledged to stop expecting it from sorority side of things and [for fraternities] to stop providing it."

From a risk management standpoint, there is a concern that banning common source alcohol at parties, like mixed drinks and beers, prevents organizations from controlling how much alcohol is being consumed at parties and makes it harder to cut people off. In addition, this ban may encourage activities like pre-gaming and bringing hard liquor into events. Furthermore, there is concern that the ban on common source simply will not stick and that it will get even further out of hand.

"The biggest problem is that there is a row mentality, where all six fraternities feed off each other in order to sustain the social image at BSC," the anonymous fraternity member says. "So if one frat decides to follow a certain policy, unless all the fraternities are also following, it will very likely hurt their social scene and not be a benefit to the greater Greek community."

Feature photo by jamesomalley via Flickr.

All About Rowdy Cash

Incorporating a New Form of Payment into the BSC Community

Why was Rowdy Cash started?

Dr. David Eberhardt, VP of Student Development, explains, “There’s been a concern for a while that the college, by allowing a student to swipe their card to buy a t-shirt, was being a credit card company. The transaction process gets to the bookstore; the bookstore then sends it over to student accounts; [then], it gets put on your student account," Eberhardt says. "There was this really delayed process of when you’re getting something and when you’re purchasing it.”

How does Rowdy Cash work?

“Panther bucks are a declining balance that you have already paid for, and the college has paid to Aramark, so it really isn’t your money anymore. It’s just a balance that the college is essentially holding in your name,” Eberhardt clarifies. “The difference, now, is that it goes immediately to a student account of yours: your Rowdy cash account.”

Before Rowdy Cash, organizations mainly charged purchases to student accounts. Now, organizations are incorporating Square to use credit cards and are adding Venmo as a form of payment. Although student organizations will benefit in the long run, student organization leaders like Pi Beta Phi chapter president Samantha Grindell recognizes that there will be some growing pains before those benefits are reached.

“The challenge with Rowdy Cash is that people just don't have it. We can't make money off of the items we're selling if people don't have money to pay for them," Grindell says. "Rowdy Cash would work extremely well if people had it, but a lot of people aren't willing to put $100 into an account [if] they don't know they will use [it].”

The lack of students using Rowdy Cash is affecting the fundraiser and merchandise sales of practically all student organizations, including Relay for Life, the Harrison Honors Program, and the Art Students League. Dala Eloubeidi, President of Alpha Epsilon Delta, has seen Rowdy Cash affect what used to be her organization's staple fundraiser.

“AED usually raises close to $200 for our lemonade stand, but, this semester, we raised $25,” Eloubeidi says. “AED has decided to cancel the on-campus bake sale for Spirit of Luke. Instead, we have decided to raise money by hosting a percentage night at a local restaurant.”

What else should you know?

You can easily go onto the BSC website and use your credit card or debit card to add $50 or $100 to your Rowdy Cash account. Rowdy Cash rolls over until you graduate BSC, at which time it is refundable.

“People are just resistant to change, and the fact that the system wasn't easy to understand at first made it harder," Grindell says. "Once it becomes the norm, people won't even think about Rowdy Cash anymore because it'll be so ingrained in their BSC lives."

Feature photo via Micayla Edler.

Could We See a New Caf Next Year?

Where the administration is with its foodservice contract selection process.

Many students have heard that the school’s administration is in the process of reviewing our contract with Aramark and exploring new options for our campus. This is exciting news for everyone, seeing as it is no secret that our campus foodservices are almost universally disliked. Any student here has heard countless complaints about the Caf’s lack of quality and options or gripes about having to eat Subway all the time.

Dr. David Eberhardt, Vice President for Student Development, explains that the process begins with a team of administrators who discuss criteria for what food services should be on campus. A proposal is developed and sent to different companies, who craft their own proposals, which they then send back to the school. The administrative taskforce will select a few standout options to pursue further. When they reach a decision, they formulate a recommendation that will be adopted by the college’s senior leadership. After that, the minutia and fine print of the contract is negotiated. When all is said and done, the new contract is implemented on campus.

Our contract taskforce has started meeting to discuss criteria for what food services at BSC should be. Dr. Eberhardt hopes that they will be on pace to arrive at a decision this spring, which could allow for implementation over the summer. While overall goals are clear, many details are still up for discussion.

“Maybe we’ll decide the Caf won’t be open the whole time," Dr. Eberhardt says. "That saves dollars that could be invested in other ways.” These possibilities are exciting, but Dr. Eberhardt was sure to stress that no decisions have been made and that criteria should stay liberal.

“The more general we put those criteria, the more freedom it gives the companies to have some creativity and variety in what they come back with in their proposals,” Dr. Eberhardt says. Such flexibility could mean dining options we have never seen before, which may include different food service locations, such as the library or academic quad.

Details are sparse, but the possibilities are mouth watering. Within the next couple of years, we could see a whole new approach to dining on our campus.

Feature pic via Creative Commons.

Sitting Down With President Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith

Her Story and What's Coming Up Next On the Hilltop

On June 10th, Birmingham-Southern College put out a press release stating that its 14th president, Dr. Ed Leonard, had stepped down after just a year of leading the college. This news was shocking, and the circumstances of Dr. Leonard’s departure were equally dubious. The release only stated that he had left for “personal reasons.”  Even more shocking was the new face that had appeared almost from nowhere. Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith: Birmingham-Southern College’s 15th president and first female one at that. Questions loaded with wonder and suspicion came flooding through the Hilltop. Who is this woman? What happened behind the scenes? What’s going to change? As college students, we are intelligent consumers of information who want answers. But there is room for excitement too. Our college has a new leader, and she is one with many years of fascinating experiences to draw on while leading our college. Exciting new changes are already happening, and there are more to come. So I sat down to talk with President Flaherty-Goldsmith, or Miz President as she likes to be called, to learn more about who she is and what her vision is for Birmingham-Southern College.

Henry: Tell me a little bit about yourself. Where are you from?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: I'm originally from Pontotoc, Mississippi. But I left there when I was seventeen years old. I've lived in all four corners of the USA and in Mexico. I'm a native of the South, and I keep coming back to the South, but I venture to other areas.

Henry: Now I understand you've published a book. Can you tell me a little bit about that?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: Yeah. Well this book is about growing up as a poor white person in the rural South during the pre-Civil Rights period. I initially wrote just one short story about some of the activities we had when I was growing up. The reason that we were poor was that my father abandoned us. He left my mom to raise all of the kids. We were taught from a very early age that poverty was temporary for us. But we were very poor. We picked cotton to buy our clothes in the fall. I chopped cotton in the spring to buy my summer clothes. I worked on Saturdays in my uncle’s drug store ten miles away from the time I was nine years old. He was not poor. We grew out of our poverty. But because we did work our way out of it, my son and our nephews and nieces didn't really know how their parents had grown up. They had grown up in middle to upper income families. So I wrote this one story about the way we grew up. I had one nephew who said, “Oh my goodness! This is wonderful. I understand my dad.” This other nephew who read it said, “Please Aunt Linda, write more. We want to know about our family.” So I ended up writing a collection of short stories. They're all true, but they're also written in a way that I think is kind of engaging, comical, and sometimes sad. It's about people that I knew and about what it was really like to grow up poor. The other reason I wanted to write it was because most of the things you read about the pre-Civil Rights South would lead you to believe that only the African-Americans were poor and that the other people were living and having them as servants. It occurred to me that people don't know that side of Mississippi or the South. They only know what they've read about. Two classes: the rich white and the poor African-Americans. It's just not true. A majority of them, whites in the rural South at that time, were also poor. There were a few landowners who had a great deal of money, but most of the people didn't have a lot of money. So it was for a couple of reasons that I wrote the book. 

Henry: One question that feels very appropriate to ask a college president. What was college like for you?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: Probably quite different than it is for you. I would have loved to have attended a college like Birmingham-Southern College. I would've flourished here, but at the time that I was going to college, I had to work full-time and go to school at lunch, at night, and on weekends. So going to college for me was balancing three classes a semester with a full-time job. I went to the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa, then UAB for my MBA.

Henry: Under ideal circumstances, where would you like BSC to be at the end of your tenure?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: I think you know that a big part of what I see for BSC is us being more involved in the West End. There are ways that we can be enriched by the community and that they can be enriched by us. I would also like to see us have at least 1600 students on campus, and I would like to see us have more transfers from two-year colleges. I would very, very much like for us to have some new initiatives that we are promoting. I'm really excited about what we're doing in terms of the new creative and applied computing, which they're working through the curricular processing to implement for next fall. I also think that we need to do more innovative things that meet the needs of students going out into the workforce in addition to all the wonderful liberal arts elements that we already provide. That's pretty much what I would like to see. Of course I would like to see us have an endowment of about $150 million dollars. I'd like for us to offer more scholarships. I guess what I really want is for the Birmingham community to visit the Hilltop a lot more often because, once you come to Birmingham-Southern, you're impressed. You can really see that it changes lives and forms lives of significance. I want to make Birmingham-Southern College more visible to a lot more people.

Henry: Tell me more about the creative and applied computing program. What else are we looking to create or expand?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: Well, last year, the provost had visioning sessions with her faculty to find out what they thought were the things we should be doing in the future. Now that's really the right approach is to go through your faculty and vision. That's how they came up with creative and applied computing. We're also expanding our Urban Environmental Studies program as a result of those. This is all assuming all these things pass curriculum review. We're also creating a Distinction in Public Health. Now the creative and applied computing is something you would use no matter what you're major is. That's really the future way of using computing, whether you're an artist or musician or whatever, and that's what they're really going to be focusing on: how it applies to a liberal arts background. It readies you for using that whatever your profession.

Henry: There’s an attitude on this campus that Birmingham-Southern has problems that it will never fix. The big example is the Caf. What are your plans or thoughts on attitudes like that and working to change them?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: We are in the process now. Our contract is ending with Aramark, and we have formed a small committee to evaluate food service and decide what we're going to do with it. We're looking at all the concerns that have been expressed as we make the change. I can't tell you what we're going to do because we just put the committee together and are starting to look at it. I've been here eight weeks, and there are a lot of things to do. We're moving as rapidly as we can, but I have a great senior team to work with. You can also be sure that David Eberhardt and Ben Newhouse make clear to us that we need to have a better foodservice.

Henry: Do you have any idea how long you're going to be staying at Birmingham-Southern College?

Pres. Flaherty-Goldsmith: As long as they need me.